The Burren is a terrific base for a golfing tour. There are five good – two, world renowned – courses within a 10 mile radius and a links gem on the Ards peninsula that you reach via the Strangford/Portaferry ferry.
You’re in McIlroy’s home county now. This is an area where golf is every sporting person’s other game and where large numbers of highly competitive amateurs are produced. You will see many juniors around the clubs as that is the culture here. If you spot Rory’s legendary coach Michael Bannon whatever you do don’t ask him for an appraisal of your swing. He will stop, ponder, and after an excruciating pause will reply ‘What you need is a couple of month’s break from the game. After that I’d seriously consider giving it up altogether’.
From the world famous Royal County Down – venue for the 2015 Irish Open, the stunning coastal scenery of Ardglass, to the local member clubs and pay-to-play courses, there are two constants – a warm welcome and sporting courses that you will want to tell everyone about.
36 Golf Links Road, Newcastle, BT33 0AN,
+44 (0)28 4372 2419
11 miles / 22 minutes from The Burren
Championship course £££££
Annesley course £
Universally acknowledged as one of the world’s top five, Royal County Down is quite simply the most beautiful links courses. Against the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne, the course sweeps through huge dunes and gorse lined swales. The great architects have played their part in its development, Old Tom Morris, James Braid, Harry Colt and Donald Steel but in truth, the land here at Dundrum Bay has always been the principal designer. It will take some preparation and cash to get a tee time but it’s worth it. You will be in an exclusive club having played the Championship 18 at RCD. Don’t worry about your score, the setting and the course will provide memories that linger for all your golfing days.
John’s tip – Play the Annesley, same setting and course quality, easier to get on and significantly less strain on the wallet.
Bookings are made through the Secretary’s Office. A booking form is provided on the website. Caddies are available and at least one caddie must be engaged per 4 ball on the Championship course.
Castle Place, Ardglass, BT30 7TP
+44 (0)28 44 84 1219
7 miles / 20 minutes from The Burren
Play #AwesomeArdglass and fall in love. Now firmly on the bucket list of courses to play in Ireland for the global golfer, the course has been improved in the last few years by Director of Golf, Paul Vaughan and renowned Irish architect, Ken Kearney. From the first tee shot carrying 180 yards of rocky shore from the walls of the 14th century castle, to the last approach to the 18th there are stunning views across the Irish Sea and south to the Mournes. The 198 yard par three 12th features on many lists of the best holes in Irish golf.
John’s tip – It’s not so much a tip as firm advice. Don’t miss out on playing this fantastic course and enjoying its stunning location and friendly clubhouse.
14 Coniamstown Road, Bright, Downpatrick, BT30 8LU
+44 (0)28 44 84 1319
3.5 miles / 8 minutes from the Burren
This is the course closest to the Burren on the high ground overlooking Tyrella. This is a pay to play course but highly regarded by all levels of golfer. It is a parkland course with a long track that needs you to have the driver on your side. Was famous for a par 6 hole –now just an uphill par 5 550 yarder.
Visitor information: Equipment, buggies and trollies can be hired via the Pro shop.
43 Saul Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6PA
+44 (0)28 44 61 5947
7 miles / 20 minutes from The Burren
A great members club where the welcome for visiting golfers is always warm. Downpatrick is an immaculate parkland track with notably good greens where precise short iron play is rewarded. Your correspondent worked in the clubhouse bar many years ago and regularly checks that hospitality standards – sole measure is the draught Guinness – have been maintained!
John’s tip – Make sure to stop by in this friendly club for a few drinks and great bar food. Some German guests at The Burren described St Patrick’s as the friendliest golf club they had ever visited.
Discounts are available for GUI / ILGU members. Caddies, buggies and trollies can be hired via the Pro shop
20 Grove Road, Ballynahinch, BT24 8PN
+44 (0)28 9756 2365
14 miles / 25 minutes from The Burren
Spa is a delightful parkland course nestling in the heart of the characteristic drumlin hills of County Down. At 6500 yards par 72 it is no pushover. Spa is however a relaxing venue with panoramic views of the Mourne Mountains.
Discounts are available for GUI / ILGU members. Caddies, buggies and trollies can be booked via the online booking system.
142 Main Road, Cloughy, BT22 1JA
+44 (0)28 4277 1004
23 miles /1 hour via Strangford ferry
A traditional links course on the beautiful Ards Peninsula, Kirkistown Castle is the most easterly course in Ireland. It is a fair challenge for golfers of all standards with some particularly tough par 4s to get your attention. Many a steady round has foundered at the tenth where the green is perched high above the fairway and a precise short iron is essential after your very best drive.
John’s tip – This trip via the Strangford ferry will delight and you will no doubt be back to spend time in Portaferry and Strangford without your clubs.
Discounts are available for GUI / ILGU members. Caddies, buggies and trollies can be booked via the Pro shop..